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USATourist News Magazine by Elizabeth Blair
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USATourist News Magazine

December 2010 - Lake Placid, New York

In this issue:

Welcome to the December 2010 issue of USATourist.com. This past summer my family and I took a two-week East Coast road trip and one of our stops was the charming town of Lake Placid which is located in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State. For a small town, I was initially surprised to find it draws such a huge number of international visitors. It ends up, there are many good reasons.

A Rich Olympic History

Lake Placid was host to the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics. Today, it's a training center for winter sports athletes. During the cold months the town turns into a hopping ski town. But there's more to do here than skiing and many of the activities are year-round since summer is also a beautiful time of year to visit.

The Olympic Center

Olympic Center is where you will find the Herb Brooks Arena as well as the museum.
© Beth Blair

The Herb Brooks Arena is one of the most cherished ice arenas in the country. This is the where the Miracle on Ice occurred (USA underdogs beat the undefeated Soviets) during the 1980 Games. When you visit talk to the locals who were there and watch their eyes light up as they recall that day.

While the 1980's games are only a memory, hockey is still practiced and played here as are national and international figure skating competitions. Adjacent to the arena is the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympic Museum where visitors can step back in time and view photos, memorabilia and videos about the Olympics and the athletes who participated. One of the highlights is watching the never-released 1980 Miracle on Ice Game!

Watch them Fly

During the summer months, "freestyle aerialists" participate in Wet n' Wild Wednesdays. This is the athletes' opportunity to practice their stunts by skiing down no-snow runs and landing in a 750,000-gallon pool. The ski jumpers twist, flip and soar through the air. It's no surprise the crowd goes wild with every jump.

After the show, visitors can ride up the ski hill on chairlifts and take a 26-story glass elevator ride to the K-120 meter tower observation deck. The panoramic view of the Adirondack High Peaks is spectacular. One of the most exciting parts of our day was watching three ski jumpers practice their jumps. Be sure to have your camera on-hand your entire visit. You will never know who or what you see.

Sky Jump

Even in the summer spectators get a thrill from watching the athletes on the ski jump.
© Beth Blair

Year-round Mountain Fun

As previously mentioned, during the winter Lake Placid turns into a winter wonderland. Skiers and snowboarders enjoy days riding down Whiteface Mountain, the Olympic Mountain. However, during the summer hikers and mountain bikers can take advantage of the winding mountain trails. Even if you're not the active type, you can ride the Cloudsplitter Gondola up to enjoy 360-degree views from the observation deck.

Tip: Pack a lunch and relax at one of the many picnic tables on the deck.

Don't miss the drive up the 75-year-old Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway, another Lake Placid highlight. The views are quite splendid up there too, but there's something else that's extremely intriguing, a stone castle. There are a couple of options for getting to the top. First, you can hike the somewhat challenging stone path to the very top of Whiteface or you may take an elevator that is built into the stone. Regardless of how you get to the top, the experience will amaze you.

Bargain: The Olympic Sites Passport allows visitors access and discounts to Lake Placid's top attractions including admission to:
* Whiteface Mountain: Whiteface Mt. Veteran's Memorial Highway
* Little Whiteface: Cloudsplitter Gondola
* The Olympic Center: 1932 and 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympic Museum
* Olympic Speed Skating Oval: 400 meter Olympic track
* Olympic Sports Complex: Tour the world class combined bobsled/luge/skeleton tracks
* Olympic Jumping Complex: Tour the facility and ride the elevator to the skydeck on top of the 120m jump tower

Whiteface Mountain

This stone path is one way to get to the castle at the top of Whiteface.
© Beth Blair

See the Lake

If there's one thing you should do during your summer visit, it's taking a Lake Placid boat tour at Placid Marina. We loved watching cliff divers as our guide gave us history about the area and the lakeside "camps" (huge lakefront properties).

Where to Stay

Lake Placid has a wide variety of hotel and lodging choices. There are hotels and cabins in town and many campgrounds on the outskirts of town. We stayed at the Crowne Plaza Resort & Golf Club in the middle of town. The downtown village is an easy walk or you can hop on the regularly scheduled trolley that stops at the hotel. If you wish to eat at the Boat House, one of the hotel's restaurants, a free shuttle will drive you and pick you up (don't forget to tip your driver). The Boat House has a wonderful reputation and is quite famous for its seafood dishes. For breakfast, the Crown Plaza offers a breakfast buffet complete with an omelet station.

Lots of Eating Options

Speaking of food, when possible I like to offer our readers suggestions on places to eat and I have several suggestions for Lake Placid. Chair 6 is found in an old farmhouse which was renovated to accommodate a restaurant. It's open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Be sure to look for the old chairlift out front next to the restaurant sign. Great Adirondack's Steak and Seafood is located on the main street of the downtown village. It's a good idea to call for dinner reservations, as this is a very busy place. Not only do they have an extensive menu, they brew their own beer and root beer onsite. If you order a beer, the restaurant lets guests take a souvenir Lake Placid Olympic-themed pint glass home. Cellar Bistro & Grill is open for lunch and dinner and has a very budget-friendly menu and the food is fantastic and diverse. The Caribbean Cowboy offers an unexpected Jamaican and Southwest-inspired menu. If you like spicy food you will not be disappointed.

How to Get There

Lake Placid's local airport is the Adirondack Regional Airport in Saranac Lake about 16 miles (26 km) from the village. Other nearby airports includes Albany International Airport and Burlington International Airport. Expect a driving time of about five hours from New York City and 2.5 hours from Albany.

We hope you enjoyed this issue of USATourist.com. Stayed tuned for next month's issue, we're visiting Hershey, Pennsylvania, the Sweetest Place on Earth.

My Favorite Place

Las Vegas, Nevada

By Gerry Leco, Chief Information Officer

Gerry at the Wynn Casino

Gerry and his wife enjoy lunch poolside at the Wynn Casino Hotel.
© Gerry Leco

I love to experience new places, sites, activities and restaurants. That is why I rarely visit the same places more than once. Las Vegas is one exception. There are three main reasons for this. First, I enjoy gambling, second it can be very inexpensive to visit and third, there is just so much to do in and around Las Vegas.

Las Vegas is an entire city built around casinos and gambling. There are about 56 casinos located on the famed Las Vegas strip, many more casinos in "old town" Las Vegas as well as the greater Las Vegas area. These casinos range from the huge mega-resorts of the strip to tiny one room "locals" casinos. They cater to everyone from the ultra-rich, with private gambling and giant suites to the most frugal people with penny slots and dollar table games.

Las Vegas can be very inexpensive to visit if you know what you are doing. With so many flights in and out of Vegas, it can be easy to find inexpensive flights. Hotels can be found in almost any price range. Generally all hotel rooms in Las Vegas cost two to three times more on Friday and Saturday nights, so if you can visit Las Vegas during the week, you can stay in even the fanciest resorts for a very reasonable price. For a bigger bargain, you can look for a room at the many "off-strip" hotels where you may find rooms for as little as $30 a night. Finally, eating can be cheap in Las Vegas as well. Las Vegas has a long tradition of offering unbelievable food deals or cheap buffets in order to attract people to the casinos.

If fine dining is more to your liking, there is hardly any place in the United States where you can get a better selection. Virtually every celebrity chef in the United States has a restaurant in Las Vegas. Many of the most famous American restaurants, such as New Orleans' Commanders Palace and New York's Rao's, also have a location in Vegas. This concentration of restaurants lets you experience some of the best dining from around the United States in one place.

When it comes to activities, it is hard to beat Las Vegas again. It probably has the greatest variety and concentration of show options anywhere in the United States, with the exception of New York City. Many of the casinos boast visually stunning architecture which is amazing to see and won't cost you anything. Some examples are the scaled down Manhattan skyline of the New York, New York Hotel and Casino and the great black pyramid of the Luxor Hotel. Other casinos offer unique attractions just meant to bring visitors to the casinos, many of which are free. For example, Bellagio has a dancing water, lights and music show and the observation tower at the Stratosphere boasts four amusement park style rides on top of the tower!

Believe it or not, Las Vegas is also located in a great place for seeing outdoor attractions. Near Las Vegas is Red Rock Canyon Park, which offers great hiking and a scenic drive in the mountains surrounding the city. A little further away is Valley of Fire State Park, which awes hikers with "Martian like" landscapes. About three and one half hours drive from Las Vegas is Death Valley State Park in California. It is only about five hours drive to the famous South rim of the Grand Canyon and three and one half hours drive to the west rim, which boasts the stunning glass bridge.

In my twenty or so trips to Las Vegas, I have still not seen all there is to see and do. Every time I go I try to do a couple new things, but I still have a lot to cover. This is why Las Vegas is and will likely remain one of my favorite places to visit.

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Written by: Elizabeth L. Blair

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